Written by: Jenny Smith
In the materialistic West, it can be easy to lose sight of our basic values to care for one another. Generations have now grown up with multiple choices of products and services and the cheapest and most accessible on the market are often the ones that draw crowds in these times where money still controls the majority of decisions.
Taking a peek below the surface of the companies that make products easily available, all too often shows a shadowy side to business where staff are being poorly treated and natural resources are being plundered in the name of consumerism. As more and more people wake up to the truth that continuing along this road is unsustainable, it’s important to have some guidelines to model and pass on to your children as to what can be done differently.
Introducing your kids to the concept of the carbon footprint is a great way to look at how different lifestyles and choices impact on the wider world. There are online calculators where you can work out the difference between travelling by train or by plane, the difference that switching all our appliances off at night makes and the difference between using fossil fuels compared to using renewable energy. It’s something that you can have fun with rather than get hung up on and take overly seriously – you can model making little changes like cycling locally rather than driving and charting up your weekly saving of carbon.
Ethical shopping is also a very important area for consideration. Whilst cheap fashionable clothing is obviously very seductive to young people, having an understanding of the hidden costs of cheap jeans can be a powerful antidote to compulsive purchasing. Again take care of how heavily to go into this topic, there is no point inducing mass guilt into anyone. Select whatever information you pass on carefully, make it relevant and easy to understand.
When your children start to save money help them to look into what happens to the money that they put into banks. Explore the choices between banks that have policies of not funding weapons or chemicals and talk through the issue of money being a form of power. Extend this conversation into looking a what power we have generally as consumers and find some examples of when specific companies like Nestle or Shell have been boycotted, explore the reasons why this happened and talk about the importance of taking action even when the odds are stacked against the man on the street.
Food and diet
Finally help your child to think about food and the wider implications of our diet. Teach them about seasonal and local eating as a way of working with nature rather than against, educate them about factory farming, genetic modification and how pesticides impacts on the soil which then impacts of the nutritional value of everyone’s vegetables.
Educate your children in such a way that they feel good about their choices. Help them to step into their power as citizens who care about the future of the world and who live their life from a place of care and value.